Worcester 34-28 Dragons: Bonus-point Challenge Cup win against Dean Ryan's 14 men
|European Challenge Cup|
|Worcester Warriors (13) 34|
|Tries: Mills, Lawrence, Heward, Kitto Cons: Shillcock 4 Pens: Shillcock 2|
|Dragons (10) 28|
|Tries: Wainwright, Williams, Baldwin Cons: Davies 2 Pens: Davies 3|
Worcester Warriors perked up their European Challenge Cup hopes as they came from behind to beat Dean Ryan's 14-man Dragons at Sixways.
Dragons led through Aaron Wainwright's early try when Taine Basham was red carded on 18 minutes for what appeared a spear tackle on Gareth Simpson.
But Warriors turned it round with tries from Ryan Mills, Ollie Lawrence, debutant Noah Heward and Jono Kitto.
Tries from Rhodri Williams and Luke Baldwin earned Dragons a bonus point.
Warriors' win moves them to within a point of leaders Dragons at the top of Pool One ahead of the two sides meeting again at Rodney Parade next Friday night.
Dragons had picked up a maximum 10 points from their opening two wins over Castres and Enisei-STM, while Worcester began the day in third place on five points, having followed their opening win over the Russians by losing in France.
Dragons had Wales forwards Wainwright and Elliot Dee both making their first club appearances since the World Cup in Japan. And, after Jamie Shillcock's early penalty, the visitors responded well, Sam Davies converting Wainwright's 14th-minute try.
But then came the game's key moment when Simpson, who had only been on the pitch three minutes as a replacement for the injured Chris Pennell, was upended by back-row forward Basham, who appeared to lose his footing as he made the challenge.
Italian referee Marius Mitrea reached straight for his red card, leaving former Warriors boss Ryan, on his first return to Sixways, having to worry about his side playing more than 62 minutes a man short.
Warriors quickly cashed in on that man advantage when centre Mills got the first of Warriors' four tries, improved by Shillcock, to put his side back in front, only for Davies to level at 10-10.
Shillcock's second penalty edged Warriors to a 13-10 interval lead, only for Dragons scrum-half Rhodri Williams to score within six minutes of the restart to edge the Welsh side 15-13 up.
Davies then kicked another penalty before centre Lawrence crossed. And, although Shillcock's conversion put Warriors back in front again, the lead changed hands again when a third penalty from Davies made it 21-20 to the Dragons.
But, with 14 minutes left, Warriors got a lucky break when the ball popped out of a ruck, allowing the unmarked Heward breeze in and mark his debut with a try.
Shillcock converted and Lawrence then set up a fourth try for late substitute Kitto to earn Worcester their bonus point. But Dragons did at least have the final word when a clever chip over the top by Davies allowed Worcester old boy Baldwin to gallop over and claim the extra point which keeps them top of the group.
Warriors director of rugby Alan Solomons told BBC Hereford and Worcester:
"When they went down to 14 men we were playing the game in the wrong part of the field and we made quite a lot of errors.
"We overplayed and weren't as patient as we should have been and made a rod for our own back.
"But full marks to the boys they stuck to their task really well and came away with the bonus point to keep our hopes alive."
Dragons director of rugby Dean Ryan told BBC Sport Wales:
"It's all about how proud I am of our group. That's an incredible shift for some 70 minutes. The emotion in the changing room is that we can't wait for next week.
"I could sit and say the first try is a blocking situation, the second try is a high shot on Sam Davies, but what's the point?
"I don't think it's a red card, it's a rugby incident that could be dealt with by a penalty or yellow card. He hasn't got a TMO, so why is the referee (Marius Mitrea) jumping to a red?"
Worcester Warriors: Heward; Pennell, Lawrence, Mills, David; Shillcock, Heaney; Bower, Moulds, Carey, Kitchener, Clegg, Dodd, Cox, Van Velze (capt).
Replacements: Simpson for Pennell (15), Palframan for Carey (59), Owen for Bower (67), Miller for Moulds (67), Scott for A Kitchener (70), Kitto for Heaney (72), Monks for Dodd (75), Morris for Shillcock (79).
Dragons: Talbot-Davies; Jenkins, Morgan, T Griffiths, Hewitt; S Davies, R Williams (capt); Harris, Hibbard, Brown, J Davies, Screech, Wainwright, O Griffiths, Basham.
Replacements: Dee for Hibbard (60), Jarvis for Brown (60), Taylor for O Griffiths (72). Baldwin for R Williams (74), Reynolds for Harris (74), M Williams for J Davies (74).
Sent off: Basham (18).
Not used: Botica, Warren.
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy).